Game seven will go down in Boston lore
Glory Days Grill is a popular chain of sports bars in the Maryland/DC area and for the longest time the one in Burke, Virginia could not have been a more depressing place. On one hand, Washington was getting blown out in their own game seven on home ice and this happens to be in Washington territory. The other side of things is that a small conglomerate of Boston fans were gathering in a corner of the bar, watching the Boston Bruins play Toronto in game seven of their playoff series and slowly getting blown off of their own home ice. In that Glory Days, there seemed to be no other fans. Just Boston fans and Washington fans just hopping their salvation could be found in a burger or in a bottom of a glass. It certainly was not coming from the hockey games getting played on the television.
My friend Sully and myself were part of the Boston fans while some of my other friends – Washington fans – were at a booth trying to enjoy a game that was not easily enjoyed. Between the second and third period I went over to their table and offered cheers to my friend. What it was too was shared misery, shocking considering how the Boston Bruins started game seven. Their fire and energy in the beginning of the game made it seem as if they were going to put games five and six behind them and return to the Boston Bruins team that showed up in first half of the series.
Then, almost as suddenly as they had started, the Boston Bruins let off the gas pedal. After the second goal of the game, one by Toronto, the Boston Bruins barely managed any shots on net. Instead of shooting at the net, they got cute and tried to pick corners. When they dumped the puck, they half-skated into the corners and gave an “eh” effort in an attempt to win the puck. If a puck needed to be cleared in their own defensive zone, the Boston Bruins were more than content to just let the Maple Leafs take another chance at goalie Tuukka Rask. It would be easy to blame the fatigue, to blame the injuries that were ravaging the back-line of the Boston Bruins, but the Boston Bruins had been making excuses all year. All they could do at this point was blame themselves. They had not showed up to play.
Despite the Boston Bruins no show, it was only 2-1 at the beginning of the third period. In a change from the regular season, the Boston Bruins had actually been playing the third period’s of their playoff games. Of course, the Toronto Maple Leafs scored the first two goals of the third period and were well on their way to winning their first playoff series in almost ten years. The Boston Bruins were booed off the ice by a fan base that had become sick of their shit from the regular season and the post-season and continued to no-show game seven. The talks were not about who the Boston Bruins would go out and acquire in the off-season. Instead they were focused on who on the Boston Bruins would not be back the next season.
Nathan Horton’s goal at 9:18 of the third period felt like the biggest tease in the world. It made it 4-2 in a game that the Boston Bruins didn’t deserve to win. Another Boston fan sitting at the counter with us had gone to eating his burger, simply watching our faces for reaction of what was going on in the game. Just two Boston fans making jokes about the game, sipping from a beer and slowly realizing that the season was slipping away. To make matters worse, Horton’s goal all but assured that the game-winning goal would be credited to Phil Kessel, the former Bruin who was finally making his past employer pay for the trade that sent him to their division rival.
Then, Milan Lucic scored with just over a minute left in the period and both Sully and myself moved from laying on the bar to poking our heads up a little bit. Suddenly, there was a chance. The Bruins had a minute to score one more goal completing what could only be described as one of the most shocking comebacks in NHL history. Down the boards the puck went with Horton and captain Zdeno Chara battling for it before winning it back to the point. Jaromir Jagr moved it to Patrice Bergeron who moved it to David Krejci who moved it back to Patrice Bergeron.
At this point, the Boston Bruins appeared to be moving the puck back and forth between the point, a habit that has caused more angry minds among Bruins fans than anything else this season. It’s why their power-play failed. Their unselfishness had made them unwilling to ever shoot the puck. The expected play was for Bergeron to either move it back to Krejci or Jagr. At no point do I or any Boston Boston Bruins fan believed a shot was coming, which was about the point that Bergeron looked up and saw the mess of jerseys in front of him. He took the shot.
Boston and its fans erupted. Only minutes ago they had been left for dead and suddenly the Boston Bruins embodied everything that had made the city great over the past few months and over time. If there was one thing that the bombings at the Boston Marathon reminded us about Boston is that it is damn hard to keep the city down. In the days after that, Boston Strong became a rallying cry for a city that always fought back against adversity. Yet, these Bruins all season long seemed to do the opposite. Once the darlings of the Boston sports scene when their will carried them to a Stanley Cup championships, the Bruins were becoming a team that was hard to like. They didn’t fight back, they made excuses, they were simply becoming harder and harder to root for. On Wednesday night in TD Garden, down three goals and facing elimination, something finally clicked in their consciousness. When Milan Lucic put the third goal in the net, the camera zoomed in on him and it was easy to read his lips as they said “Let’s fucking go”. It may not sound like much, just another rallying cry of a team trying to do the impossible, but it was the most fight I had seen from the Bruins season.
Bergeron’s goal tied the game at four and the joke quickly became how the Boston Bruins would now break our hearts again, making the comeback just another footnote in another game seven loss. Somehow in the back of our minds, between Lucic’s fiery face and Bergeron’s center-ice fist-pump and the pretty yellow towels littering the ice, we knew the Boston Bruins wouldn’t lose. That was more apparent after the first Toronto rally in overtime fell short. The Boston Bruins were not losing, not after everything they put themselves through. Of course it was the people’s captain who put it into the net to send the Bruins to the second round.
At this point, anything goes for the Boston playoffs. Obviously, the Boston Bruins and their fans want this run to keep going all the way to the finals and hoist the Stanley Cup for the second time in three years, but hockey is a cruel sport sometimes. The chances of it happening are low, especially considering what happened tonight in Boston, but the Boston Bruins now have given their fans one special moment that will be told and mythologized for years to come. Boston fans know where they were when they saw the snow ball or the Finals comeback or the ALCS Game 4 and the Boston Bruins have provided one of those moments. For a city and region that continues to show its pride and perseverance in the recent months, the Boston Bruins provided another chance to show just how strong the city can be.